This was one of the most disturbing weeks so far in this presidential race. The Sarah Palin celebrity machine. The unchecked lies (what happened to our media?). And the vicious, stupid campaign ads. Lipsticks and pigs -- not health care and the economy.
So you'd think the last thing I'd want to pick up would be a book about politics. But Playlist 41 starts off with a comedic political page-turner.
American Savior. Roland Merullo.
Merullo's novel helped pull me out my funk. It's funny, engaging and actually quite inspirational. The plot in a sentence: Jesus runs for president, gathering a motley crew of well-meaning people from West Zenith, Mass., as his disciples/advisors.
Narrator Russ Thomas, a TV journalist, describes the rise of Jesus (don't call him Lord) in a tough campaign with a far right-wing female candidate and a somewhat dimwitted former war hero on the Democractic side. It's fun to hear Jesus give his positions on issues like gun control and abortion. The only downside to the book is Merullo's decision to use lame psuedonyms for real media types -- Lenny Queen and Bulf Spritzer. Still, Distractions heartily recommends American Savior.
Burn After Reading.
The critics were tough on the Coen Brothers when they followed up Fargo with a crazy farce about a dimwitted White Russian-loving bowler and his misfit friends. Now, they're doing it again -- taking down Burn After Reading, the Coens' follow to the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men.
Yes, I'm calling out you Wall Street Journal critic Joel Morganstern, who suggested the film be called "Forget After Seeing" or the New York Observer's Andrew Sarris who called it one of the most "awful movies" he'd ever seen.
If you haven't seen it yet, you have undoubtedly seen the trailer and know the plot. It's a great cast. And it's so much fun watching these great actors ham it up. Following a summer with long super-hero films eating up the big screen and with so few decent comedies, what a pleasure to see an artfully paced laugh-out-loud flick. I don't think Burn will earn the cult dedication that Lebowski has, but it will most certainly prove the critics wrong.
And you gotta love that old school poster.
Fleet Foxes. Fleet Foxes.
What amazes me most about the Fleet Foxes is the maturity of their music. It's not the type of album you expect from such a young band on their debut full-length. They're like a Baroque Beach Boys. Appalachia meets sunny SoCal. You'll hear touches of the Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span in their music. But it's no hodgepodge of sounds. It's a beautiful, modern indie-folk gem. Go ahead and pick this up, play it often and give it time to soak in.
See my review of the Fleet Foxes' Sun Giant EP in Playlist 38.
Howard Wolfson was communication's director for Hillary Clinton's campaign. He blogs on the New Republic's Web site as The Flak. And he works at (hold on, let me hold my nose, here) Fox News. But he also has Gotham Acme, a mostly music-related site with a touch of politics. It's a welcome addition to the musical blogosphere.
Couple final notes ...
My birthday passed last week and I received a great birthday greeting from my You Tube-friendly son and his friends. It's here.
And finally, the Playlist leaves you with another You Tube gem. If you haven't already seen it, this is very funny, but it's also somewhat sad. But then I thought, with a few years of journalism school (at a few different colleges), Miss South Carolina may be ready for the vice presidency.
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